Posted by: Cathy | June 13, 2018

Opt for Optimal

I remember a while ago listening to a talk that Dr. Christiane Northrup gave and she was talking about the difference between the “Recommended Dietary Allowance” (RDA, the average daily amount of a vitamin suggested to meet the nutrient requirements of a healthy person) versus what is optimal.

What is optimal is different for different people depending on your personal situation. I want to suggest you use this idea of doing what is optimal vs what you “should” do.

We hear all around the dangers of “shoulds”, that those are based on someone else’s ideas or values, which make us feel obligated. By considering what is optimal, we take the obligation and someone else’s good/bad judgment out of the equation and see what helps us thrive or flounder.

By considering what is optimal, we invite a glimpse of the future into our decision-making; we look at the benefits or consequences of the action.

Is it optimal to do a favor for someone if you resent being asked?
Is it optimal to have a big lunch if you need to finish something for a 3p deadline?
Is it optimal to accept an 8:30a meeting if you prefer to start your day with solo tasks?

Ask yourself what would be optimal for you today, and use that vision to guide your planning. Opt for optimal!
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Posted by: Cathy | June 11, 2018

Focus Management

I got this concept of “Focus Management” from author Jessica Abel.

One of our most important resources as creative people is our ability to focus, so we should pay attention to how we manage our focus like we would manage our time, money, or other precious resources.

To begin focus management, we need to first understand the conditions under which we can focus. By noticing what time of day we work best, what foods nourish us or take away our energy, and by which kinds of tasks come more naturally to us or which need more effort, we can see our natural parameters to manage our focus.

For one week, take notes on your ability to focus, checking in throughout the day.
* When during the day are you more productive?
* Do you do more quality work when you drink coffee, tea, or green smoothies?
* Are you useless after a big lunch? What kind of lunch helps you get more done in the afternoon?
* When you’re feeling alert, what type of task is the best use of that time?

Take notes and notice patterns, then play with different elements to test your focus and sharpen your understanding of how you best focus. Then once you have a week’s worth of empirical data, try to plan your weeks using what you’ve learned to boost your focus management and get more of your important creative work done!

What do you already know about how you focus? Tell me in the comments.
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Posted by: Cathy | June 6, 2018

Playing with Project Timeframes

First, I must draw your attention to the fact that this is my 800th blog post! I’m really proud of this achievement and I hope you’re enjoying what I’m writing!

Today, I want to talk about a thought that occurred to me. For long projects, especially self-directed work without a firm deadline, it can be difficult to wrap your mind around your timeframe. So I was thinking, if you scaled 365 days to one 24-hour day, each day of the year would compare to about 4 minutes (or 15 days per “hour”).

I think that this model for considering a timeframe on a project can be really helpful. To continue the analogy, we spend around 1/3 of our day sleeping. On a big project, you need to include downtime and self-care. That would compare to 121 days of rest, or about 2 1/3 days off per week! (Ergo, take your weekends off!!)

That leaves 2/3 of your time (244 days) for work. You could break that out into guidelines for different phases of your project. For example, 1 hour of daily planning would equate to 15 days, which you could break out into 4 days per quarter. 2 hours for “meals” could equate to 30 days of “nourishing” your project, perhaps with education or research. 8 hours of actual work would be 120 days of steady progress on your action items. 1 hour of “commuting to work” could be 15 days focusing on systems for your progress, original setting up of systems and reviewing them for efficiencies. That leaves 4 other hours in your “day” you could customize for your own needs.

For a big timeframe, try playing with different models to focus your time and give yourself a structure in which to work.
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Posted by: Cathy | June 4, 2018

Why do you love to do what you do?

I got this prompt from author Robert Holden:
If your values aren’t clear, ask yourself, “One reason I love to do ____ is ____.”

One reason I love to write is to get the characters out of my head.
One reason I love to write is to spend more time in my imagination.
One reason I love to write is to explore what’s in my subconscious mind.

One reason I love to draw is to really see a subject.
One reason I love to draw is to make things with my hands.
One reason I love to draw is to share non-verbal thoughts with loved ones.

Why do you love to do what you do?

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Posted by: Cathy | May 30, 2018

Creative Alignment Check

Many of us are suffering from a “Reality Disorder”: our ideals are not aligned with our day-to-day reality.

It doesn’t matter how you got to this point. You made choices that led to your current reality and you can make choices to change it. We aren’t going to judge and regret the past. We are going to take a Creative Alignment Check and use that to make small changes in the present to better align your future with your ideals.

We’ll do this with three scales: Mind, Body, and Soul.

First, on the left side of a piece of paper, brainstorm some words to describe your day-to-day Mind state (e.g., busy, distracted, overwhelmed, depressed). Opposite those on the right, brainstorm some words you would use to describe your ideal Mind state (e.g., calm, curious, intuitive, wise). Underneath this scale, brainstorm some activities you could do to cultivate more of your ideal Mind state (e.g., take a time-out, take a nap, do a meditation, write down all the thoughts buzzing around your head). Whenever you are experiencing a challenging Mind state, try to do one of your activities to practice moving toward your ideal state. Regularly check-in with yourself to see if you’re operating from the “old” Mind states or practicing more of the ideal Mind states.

Then for Body, we do the same thing. On the left side of a piece of paper, brainstorm some words to describe your day-to-day Body state (e.g., sluggish, tired, bloated, achy). Opposite those on the right, brainstorm some words you would use to describe your ideal Body state (e.g., vibrant, strong, healthy, energized). Underneath this scale, brainstorm some activities you could do to cultivate more of your ideal Body state (e.g., sleep 8 hours each night, eat more vegetables, drink more water, take a walk). Whenever you are experiencing a challenging Body state, try to do one of your activities to practice moving toward your ideal state. Regularly check-in with yourself to see if you’re operating from the “old” Body states or practicing more of the ideal Body states.

Again for Spirit, we do the exercise again. On the left side of a piece of paper, brainstorm some words to describe your day-to-day Spirit state (e.g., unconscious, confused, focusing on lack, unsupported). Opposite those on the right, brainstorm some words you would use to describe your ideal Spirit state (e.g., peaceful, forgiveness, love, harmony). Underneath this scale, brainstorm some activities you could do to cultivate more of your ideal Spirit state (e.g., meditation, yoga, inspirational reading, volunteer work). Whenever you are experiencing a challenging Spirit state, try to do one of your activities to practice moving toward your ideal state. Regularly check-in with yourself to see if you’re operating from the “old” Spirit states or practicing more of the ideal Spirit states.

You can download my Creative Alignment Check e-booklet, which has worksheets for these three exercises. Find it on my downloads page under “Self-Development.”

You can begin to merge your reality to reflect more of your ideals. It takes mindfulness to notice when you are operating from the “old” states so you can make different choices to cultivate the “new”/ideal states. But day by day, moment by moment, you can create new habits and slowly shift to your ideal states. You have the power to build your reality in a new direction by building new habits.

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Posted by: Cathy | May 28, 2018

Track Your Progress

One way to help keep momentum on a project is to track your progress. You can do this in a number of ways.

1. Try keeping a simple calendar and marking off days with pen or stickers when you make progress on your project. Having a visual record can help you work on “streaks” of progress to keep plugging along each day.

2. Try posting your progress weekly or even daily on social media. Post update photos every Monday for visual art projects or post your word count or other milestones for projects that don’t lend themselves well to photos. Having friends and family “like” your posts and ask you about your project in conversation can help boost your momentum.

3. Try keeping a progress grid or map. A grid can be something like a tube you color in as your progress grows. A map can be a path of your action steps and you move a marker along as you complete each step. Seeing your progress manifest over time can help you keep moving when you have a challenging day and wonder if anything is happening.

4. Try keeping a progress journal. I use a writing journal for multiple reasons. First, it helps me transition from “normal time” to “writing time” when I start my writing session with a short journal entry. Second, it gives me an outlet for any frustration or disappointments in my project, and a venue to brainstorm solutions. Third, it provides a historical record I can refer to on a future project to remind me how I worked through problems.

There are probably many other ways to track your progress. The important thing is to try one and use it. What is your favorite way?
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Posted by: Cathy | May 23, 2018

Blocks offer Benefits

Are you getting to work regularly on your creative projects? If not, what are you choosing to do instead, and why?

If you’re having a creative block, something about it is giving you a benefit or you wouldn’t continue to choose staying stuck. It is always a choice.

* It might be as simple as avoiding making a decision. Maybe you put a lot of time into a project and it’s not working, so you say you are stuck when really you should let that project fade away and work on something else instead. Forgive yourself and move on.

* Maybe you bit off more than you can chew and you just need to simplify what you’re doing or scale back. It’s okay to admit your beginning wasn’t planned well and adjust your course. Swallow your pride and start again.

* A block might be disguising a fear or limitation. Take a little time to really look at the block and identify the fear. Then you can work on building up the necessary strength so you can meet the fear and move forward. Become the person who can make your dream come true.

Choose the real benefit of accomplishing your creative work rather than the false benefit of being stuck and not having to do hard work. Anything worth having is worth working for.

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Posted by: Cathy | May 21, 2018

We don’t do creativity alone

Even if you do your creative projects alone in a room, you aren’t doing creativity alone. You’re part of a lineage of all the inspiration you’ve collected over the years.

Maybe you haven’t taken a formal art or writing class, but you have had teachers. At some place and time, I hope many places and many times, you were inspired by someone. You paused in awe, the impression expanded your definition of what is possible, and that expansion made you want to create something.

This is also why your creativity is so needed in the world. Your collection of inspired moments is unique, and no one else can make the art that you will make from those awesome impressions, because everyone’s collection of impressions is different. So don’t compare what you make to what others make. Just honor your lineage by letting things move you to create, and maybe let those things inspire other people too.

We don’t do creativity alone. Your lineage is always with you and hopefully always growing. Stay open to inspiration and it will help to fertilize your creative projects.

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Posted by: Cathy | May 16, 2018

The sign of a healthy plant is new growth

It’s spring and buds are beginning to sprout. In my neighborhood, I noticed some trees are budding and others aren’t.

The sign of a healthy plant is new growth. The trees that aren’t budding may need a pruning, or may be past their prime.

The same is true of our creative health. A healthy creative is making something on a regular basis. There are signs of life in her sketchbook or recent save dates on her fiction computer files.

That’s the good news; as a creative person, you are in charge of your creativity health. You can make choices aligned with your creative priorities. You don’t need to wait for someone to come prune your dead branches. You can brush them off and start showing signs of healthy life.

How is your creativity health today?

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Posted by: Cathy | May 14, 2018

Re-Creation

Every day, take some time for re-creation as well as recreation.

You can re-create yourself every day. You can make subtle or drastic changes in your dress, your hairstyle, or your routines and habits.

Notice why you do what you do and whether or not it serves you.

For example: today, I wore my hair down. It’s usually up in a bun because my hair is thick and gets hot on my neck. Sure enough, all day, I kept having to move it briefly off my neck. I got a compliment from a coworker, but was it worth it all day to be a little uncomfortable for one compliment? Maybe yes, maybe no. Some days it’s fun to do something different, and it might be more worth it on a special occasion to dress up with my hair down. But I’ll go back to wearing my hair up tomorrow.

You can re-create yourself to become someone who manifests your dreams and goals. As you work on building your dreams, you’re also transforming yourself. Get a little mindful with your self-transformation and think about re-creating yourself.
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